Uber settles with the family of Arizona woman killed by autonomous car

29 Mar 2018

Self-driving Uber SUV in Tempe, Arizona. Image: Sean Leonard/Shutterstock

Uber has reached a settlement with Elaine Herzberg’s husband and daughter.

Arizona woman Elaine Herzberg was fatally struck by one of Uber’s driverless test vehicles earlier in March, in what is believed to be the first death involving a pedestrian hit by a self-driving vehicle.

Uber avoided a potentially messy legal battle over Herzberg’s death, which occurred after a proprietary self-driving SUV hit her as she wheeled her bicycle across the road in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

A lawyer for the family, Cristiana Perez Hesano, told local Arizona radio station KJZZ that “the matter has been resolved”, declining to provide further details or disclose the names of Herzberg’s husband and daughter.

Uber is investigating

The internal camera of the Uber vehicle showed the human safety driver mostly looking downward and not at the road in the period directly before the crash. Uber is collaborating with police and federal officials to uncover the potential causes of the collision. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, its investigation will take between a year and 14 months.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s testing privileges in the state following the accident and the ride-sharing company has put a pause on such testing in general as investigations roll on.

Discrimination lawsuit nears resolution

In a separate legal wrangling, Uber has apparently agreed to a $10m settlement in a class-action suit that claimed it discriminated against minorities and women who were employed by the company. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the settlement applies to all women and people of colour who had worked as software engineers at Uber since July 2013.

Uber has also said it will commit to new ways of managing compensation and promotion, and will provide skill development supports for women and minority engineers. It will also monitor its compensation structure.

Reuters said that the case was filed by three Latina engineers, Ingrid Avendano, Ana Medina and Roxana Del Toro Lopez, who said Uber paid them and other minorities less, promoted them at a slower pace and showed biases in their performance evaluations.

Both sides have agreed to the settlement order, but a hearing will take place on 1 May at an Oakland courtroom in order to gain the approval of US district judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Self-driving Uber SUV in Tempe, Arizona. Image: Sean Leonard/Shutterstock

Updated, 3.37pm, 29 March 2018: This article was updated to clarify that three women filed a case against Uber, not two.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects